Check-in and Check-out times

Today was my final weekday of summer vacation; I am back at school full-time on Monday. I spent the afternoon with my B&B ladies, having a wonderful lunch at Lokal Resto & Market. We get together as often as we can (about once a month at this time of year) to take a quick break, get caught up, problem-solve, and support one another.

A disconcerting trend we have all noticed in past weeks is the number of early check-ins this season. If you book over the phone with us, we normally ask whether you are planning to arrive in the afternoon or evening, and will tell you that check-in time is anytime after 3pm. If you book online, the confirmation you receive via email clearly states that check-in time is after 3pm on the day you have booked.

A bed & breakfast in Nova Scotia is defined as being four rooms or fewer, must be owner-occupied (it’s our home), and breakfast is included in the price of the room. 

Because it is our home, the time between check-out and check-in is our window of time to get things accomplished – room cleaning, laundry, ironing, shopping, appointments, maintenance… It’s during that time we allow our kids to have friends over, or practice their music or dance, or for us to get out – together – for a run or bike ride… if there is time. The five B&B’s in the Truro area are one or two person operations, so it becomes difficult when we lose that small window of time. In a one-person operation, especially, they need that time to get groceries for breakfast.

We recently had a day when all three of our rooms (travelling separately) had arrived and settled in “to rest” between 1-2pm, without making prior arrangements. That meant the scraping of the house for painting stopped, as did the hammering and sawing of shelf-building. One day this week, we had a couple show up to check-in shortly after 11 am. Our check-out time is 11 am, so the prior guests had just departed! One operator in this area had a call earlier this summer from booked guests at 8:05 am looking to check-in at that time – some of their guests were still in bed at that point!

Earlier this summer, we went to the afternoon funeral of a neighbour and left as soon as the service was finished, skipping the reception, so we would be home in time to greet guests at check-in. When we arrived home at 2:40, the house was full and guests were resting, having arrived at 2:00. Our kids welcomed them and got them settled, so they were looked after, but not necessarily to the standard we try to uphold.

I honestly think that the issue of early check-in stems from the perception we are the same as a hotel and have unfilled rooms we can slide people into, or staff on-call 24-hours per day. In essence, we do; it’s just always us. Many people are surprised to learn that we live here.

We want to be clear: if you have an event, an early flight, or an appointment, we are happy to make arrangements ahead of time to be here to welcome you, so you are not sitting in our driveway wondering if we are ever going to show up.

As I mentioned earlier, I return to school on Monday (August 29), and D’Arcy returns to school the following week (September 6) which means my dad, Dave, comes to the house on weekdays to welcome guests and get everyone settled in until we arrive home at suppertime. If our guests show up early, he is not necessarily going to be here yet, which doesn’t make for a great first impression – which is important to us to avoid.

September is one of our busiest months, and historically we run at close to 100% occupancy. While chatting with the other B&B operators at lunch today, I decided that perhaps the best thing to do is to send each confirmed guest a welcome email the day before their scheduled arrival to explain our policy and tell them we look forward to meeting them the following day, any time after our 3pm check-in.

We’ll see how that goes.

One of our many issues, solved! 🙂

We’d like to say “thank you” to our attentive, knowledgeable, and friendly server, Courtney (and super-talented chef, Brad), for the outstanding experience at Lokal Resto and Food Market today. Your chowder is now being marketed to guests at the five Truro B&B’s as one of “the best in the province”!

Belgravia Bed & Breakfast website

 

Summertime in Nova Scotia

We had a bit of a whirlwind start to our summer vacation here at the Belgravia. The last day of school occurred on June 28, while I was still at Cornell. I arrived home late (2 am) on the night of June 30 and my cousins arrived from Portland, Oregon, a few hours later. Phil & Susan are the same cousins whom we spent this past Christmas with. His younger brother, Richard, arrived with his wife, Aletha, from Mobile, Alabama, the following day. They stayed with my parents, and on July 5, Phil’s daughter Lori, her husband Adam, and their four children arrived from Florida for a week. The next few blog posts I make will attempt to chronicle our travels around the province while they were here. Because we are usually working full-out at the B&B, we don’t often get the chance to explore our backyard at this time of year.

We started off on Canada Day with a trip to Pugwash, to the Festival of the Gathering of the Clans where our daughter, Sarah was competing in the highland dance competition. This is an interesting competition which takes place in a beautiful setting, on a wooden stage with the water in the background. There are street vendors, a midway, and a parade throughout the day. It was fun for me to run into a number of my childhood friends who were also visiting. Sarah danced well, winning a 1st place ribbon for her Highland Fling, and 2nd place for her sword dance.  Afterwards, they rode two rides on the midway and got some cotton candy before we left to drive along the Sunrise Trail to Tatamagouche.

The dancers line up, waiting for their turn on stage.

The dancers line up, waiting for their turn on stage.

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Sarah, #201, awaits the music for the Sword Dance

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Proud of her two medals and second stamp

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Scrambler!

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Scrambler!

My maiden name is Clark and the Clark family homestead is located in Tatamagouche, which is a beautiful little town on the Northumberland Strait, along the North Shore of Nova Scotia. Between the cousins, we still have somewhere close to 100 acres of farm and wooded property along the French River, which is the perfect place to picnic. One thing you should know while traveling in Nova Scotia is that certain parts can be buggy on certain days. If the wind is breezy, they usually aren’t too bad. On Canada Day, however, there was little breeze and we all had to use bug spray and put up a mosquito tent to avoid being bitten while we picnicked.

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Playing in the French River

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How many people does it take to set up a mosquito tent?

 

After we had a late lunch, we stopped in at the newly opened Tatamagouche Brewing Company and picked up a couple of growlers of their Hippy Dippy Pale Ale and Butcher Block Red to take back home. Phil and Susan had to be at the airport to pick up Richard & Aletha at suppertime, so we drove straight home.

We ordered pizzas for dinner, I got in the pool for the first time this year and everyone came back to join us around the fire for the evening. We climbed out onto the roof to watch the Canada Day fireworks – even my mom!

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The Canadian “wannabe” from Oregon. 😉

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Happy Canada Day!!

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Roasting marshmallows while waiting for the fireworks

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My parents, Dave & Deanna, enjoy their family

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Our American cousins – Phil & Susan from Oregon and Richard & Aletha from Alabama

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We were lucky to have our family in town for almost two weeks, and took the opportunity to travel around the province a bit with them while they were here. I will chronicle these travels in my next few posts.

Belgravia Bed & Breakfast website

Yummy Rhubarb Struesel Muffin Recipe

Beautiful rhubarb. Photo credit: Taste of Nova Scotia

Beautiful rhubarb. Photo credit: Taste of Nova Scotia*

As spring arrives in Nova Scotia, so does the growth of one of our local food treats – rhubarb! I LOVE rhubarb. Although technically a vegetable, in Nova Scotia we mostly treat it as a fruit. Rhubarb will be found growing in many people’s gardens and will then be found at the breakfast table for the next few weeks in various forms: warm from being stewed with maple syrup and a touch of lemon (perfect with vanilla yogurt and some granola!), and often chunked in muffins. The tartness of the rhubarb is perfectly offset by the sweetness of the struesel topping. The following is one of our favourite muffin recipes:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg (We use egg replacer)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 cups chopped rhubarb
  • TOPPING:
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon cold butter

Directions

  • In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, if using or add egg replacer. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture and alternate with sour cream, beating well after each addition. Fold in rhubarb.
  • Fill paper-lined or greased muffin cups three-fourths full.
  • Combine brown sugar, maple syrup, and cinnamon in a small bowl; then cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter.
  • Bake at 350° for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Serve warm. Yield: about 1-1/2 dozen.

We hope you enjoy – either at your breakfast table or at ours! 😉

*Taste of Nova Scotia

Belgravia Bed and Breakfast

Taste of Nova Scotia Porridge Bread (Recipe Included)

Breakfast by request this morning? French toast with fruit and “Acadian Maple” pure maple syrup, made on D’Arcy’s porridge bread. This is a recipe we discovered years ago in our “Taste of Nova Scotia” cookbook and D’Arcy makes it at least once each week, usually twice. Described as, “a wonderfully fragrant, soft brown bread”, it gets rave reviews by all. We often make this bread for the kids’ teachers as thank-you gifts, and one teacher in particular has come to the house offering to pay D’Arcy to make it for him! For the record, I like it best when it’s still warm from the oven and slathered with butter and molasses!

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Recipe by Taste of Nova Scotia:

Porridge:

  • 3 cups boiling water
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cups rolled oats

Bread:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 ½ tsp granulated sugar
  • 4 tsp dry yeast
  • 2 cups porridge
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 7 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp salt

In a saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil; add rolled oats and bring back to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set porridge aside. In a small mixing bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water; add yeast and let rise until foamy. In a large mixing bowl, blend together porridge, brown sugar, oil and molasses. To porridge mixture, add yeast mixture, stirring to combine. Add flour 1 cup at a time, stirring to blend well, and continue to add flour until dough starts to come clean from the sides of the bowl but is not dry. Turn onto a floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and somewhat elastic. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size. (60 – 90 minutes).

Punch dough down and divide into six equal pieces. Shape into loaves and place two loves each into three greased 10 – x 6-inch double bread pans. Cover and set aside to rise in a warm draft-free place until double in size, approximately one hour. Bake in a preheated 325*F  oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until loaves are golden brown. Makes three double loaves.

** If you are so inclined, we’ve been nominated as Best Bed & Breakfast in the Truro & Colchester Chamber’s 2013 “Best of Colchester” awards. Voting takes place until May 15th. We’d be so grateful if you’d click on the website and vote for “Belgravia” as “Best B&B” up to five times per IP address. You do not need to register, nor do you need to vote in every category. Thank you in advance!

Best of Colchester Award voting

Belgravia Bed & Breakfast website

Thankful

This Thanksgiving Monday, I am happily *full*, in all senses of the word. D’Arcy, Evan, Alex, Sarah, Olivia and I hosted our 4th annual Thanksgiving extravaganza.

For the past four years, we have hosted D’Arcy’s parents, his eight brothers and sisters and their families, and my parents for Thanksgiving Dinner. One of my favourite parts of the meal is when, in a circle around the table, we all share what we’re thankful for. Family… health… friends… “family and friends which are one and the same”… cousins that are growing up not just knowing one another, but as friends… family traditions that we value and hold dear…

We had close to 3/4 of the 40+ family in attendance, but were missing a few. With the wonders of technology, we were able to connect with D’Arcy’s brother and his wife who were in Alberta welcoming a new grandson, and our niece Kathryn who is in her first year at Memorial University of Newfoundland. We also had lovely Facebook messages from nieces and nephews who live away. Although they weren’t physically able to be present, we felt their presence at the gathering.

This year, the meal featured a 25 pound turkey, and two pork roasts; homemade savory dressing, mashed potato casserole, squash casserole, peas with red pepper and basil, six bean salad, mustard pickles, cranberry sauce, gravy and whole wheat rolls. Throughout the afternoon, family munched on shrimp, bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, olive tapanade, and salsa dip with crackers. Dessert was apple pie, pumpkin pie, and apple crisp with whipped cream – lots and lots of whipped cream! We provide the meal and our family graciously brings donations which we take to the food bank.

We are thankful for our family and friends, our health, our home which is large enough to accommodate 30+ at one long table, and the opportunities that our Bed & Breakfast has offered us. We are thankful for our guests – especially those who return again and again, and become part of our family.

We are thankful.

Handsome helpers, chopping onions, celery, and peeling apples, potatoes and squash.

Evan helped me set the table and Sarah & Olivia colored and made place cards for everyone with Ginna’s help.

Michael, Erin & Stephen chat before dinner

We were so happy to have nephew Pat & his fiancee Jackie home with us again this year after spending the last two Thanksgivings in Australia and China. They will be getting married in Greece in August.

Chatting with Jackie in the kitchen – she’s an expert gravy whisker!

D’Arcy’s dad, Rollie, our nephew Ryan, and my dad, Dave chatting together before dinner.

Olivia and her cousin (once removed) Seamus.

Hugs as Stephen & Kathy arrive.

It’s so much fun to watch the older cousins interacting with the younger cousins. I’m not sure who has more fun…

Erin & Dave enjoy the sunshine on the front stoop.

More love from Olivia to Seamus.

Two of D’Arcy’s favourite women! 😉

Grandpa, Neil & Olivia

Neil & Auntie K

D’Arcy and I did not plan our attire… This is what happens after 15 years of marriage?

Family

Olivia and some of the food bank donations

Blueberry Sauce Recipe

This week we have had new testimonials added to both the Belgravia Bed & Breakfast’s  Trip Advisor and  BBCanada.com listings.

One read:

“We have now completed our 3rd stay here and it’s like visiting family. Situated on the outskirts of Truro, within easy walking distance of the town, a beautifully appointed house with lovely, well equipped rooms. Breakfast was delicious as usual and we shall return again, if only to hope we get the blueberry waffles next time!”

We have guests staying with us this week for five nights while they do some genealogical research and explore Central Nova Scotia. We serve something different for breakfast each day, and so far this week they have had omlets and Eggs Florentine. Helen’s comment inspired me to serve our waffles with blueberry sauce today. There was not a bite left on anyone’s plate when I cleared them, so I thought I would share our blueberry sauce recipe:

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine:

  • 2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup water
  • dash of salt

Bring to a boil and add:

  • 1 TBSP corn starch mixed with 1 TBSP water

Stir until thickened.

Top waffles with blueberry sauce, vanilla yogurt and wheat germ, and serve with maple bacon.

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SO YUMMY – and this also works well for blueberry shortcake when put on a scone with whipped cream!

Traveling with Food Allergies

Did you know that Belgravia Bed & Breakfast is the only accommodation in Nova Scotia that advertises as “Peanut & Tree nut Free”?

This came about after our youngest daughter was diagnosed with severe food allergies when she was just ten months old. Initially her list of allergies was long: peanuts,  tree nuts, eggs, soy, dairy, cinnamon, banana, avocado, kiwi, strawberries, celery, citrus, pineapple, blueberries, grapes, melon… The only fruits she could have were canned peaches, pears and applesauce. It was overwhelming at first and we had to learn a whole new way of cooking and baking. Luckily, our baking was mostly homemade due to the quality of breakfast we provide at our bed & breakfast anyway, so we just had to modify some recipes, not learn how to bake from scratch…

Traveling still makes us nervous, but we know she can’t live in a bubble either. We are fortunate that she has outgrown most of her allergies and is left with *only* peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and soy – all of which result in anaphylaxis and, as per her most recent blood work, appear to be life-long. At home, accommodating these allergies has become second nature. She can be around eggs as long as they don’t touch her and she doesn’t ingest them, so we use a separate spatula for cooking eggs for our guests than we do when flipping egg-free pancakes for her. She has her own separate washcloths so that we don’t accidentally wipe her hands or face with a cloth that has wiped up egg. (Learned that one the hard way!) We also ask our guests to refrain from bringing peanut or nut products into our home. (Learned that one the hard way too!)

Showing off her 16 pokes after her allergy tests – 14 skin pricks, blood work and her MMR immunization (grown on egg, so her allergist administers that one and watches her afterwards for reaction)..

When we travel, we tend to take a lot of our own food with us, so that we know there will be something safe for her to eat. We tend to dine at restaurants where we know they take allergies seriously. Did you know that Boston Pizza and The Keg keep allergy binders with all ingredients for the recipes included? Each will wipe down all surfaces and change all cutting boards & utensils when they know they are preparing a meal for a guest with allergies? For our daughter’s particular mix of allergens, McDonald’s french fries and a burger without the bun are “safe”! Regardless, she does not leave our house without carrying her two epipens – just in case! All six of us are trained to use it in an emergency.

Here at the Belgravia, we “get” food allergies and do our best to accommodate any type we can, with notice. We’ll make room in our fridge and freezer for your own special food/ice packs. We will also tailor the  breakfast we serve to accommodate your needs.  One dietary restriction that affects more and more people is the need to be gluten-free and we can accommodate that too!

One of our favourite gluten-free recipes is for Buttermilk Apple Cake, passed along to us by former guests, the owners of Valley Flax Flour.

  • 1/2 cup Brown sugar
  • 2 cups Buttermilk (we’ve also soured rice milk successfully)
  • 1 cup Brown Rice Flour
  • 1 cup Flax Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 2 medium Apples, cored & chopped
  1. Lightly grease and flour (gluten-free, of course!) a 2L baking or Bundt pan
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and buttermilk.
  3. Combine rice flour, flax flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add apples to wet ingredients; mix until combined.
  4. Spread batter evenly in the pan.
  5. Bake in an oven preheated to 350*F for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in the pan before removing and cutting into 12 servings.

Traveling is stressful enough, without worrying that you are going to end up sick or having to spend time hospital – or heaven forbid – worse, because of something you ate. Here, we will do our best to keep you safe!

If only it would be this easy when she becomes a teenager…